FAIRCLOTH has converted an unused courtyard into a social learning café, applying a similar technique to that used to build the Eden Project. The structure includes a new café and a raised single-storey reading room in the shape of a pod, with the lower level of the courtyard landscaped into generous terraces of flexible zones for café seating and social learning. The café has a unique steel roof with seven Teflon inflatable pillows inserted onto the frame. A toilet block was refurbished with its roof being made into a break out terrace with staircase access to the pod. An ETFE roof canopy enclosed the courtyard at high level and openings were created in place of various existing courtyard windows to provide links into existing accommodation
"An ETFE canopy is ultra lightweight, a great insulator, has great sustainability and floods the area below with light, which meant it was the perfect technique for this project," said Ian Chapman, of Architecture plb.
Work at the college was always going to be challenging as it is a 1920s building, which meant the foundations and drainage had to be renewed first. A tower crane was the only access to the site so everything had to be picked up and dropped in.